If you missed and want to read parts 1-3, see Ti’s blog. I received more feedback on the last article on emotion than on any other one, so it must have “struck a cord.”
If you practice yoga intending for a buff or healthy body, you get a particular result. If you practice yoga to heal your body, mind and emotions, you get a different result. If you practice yoga to realize the highest Truth or to realize your True Nature, you get another result. A doctor cuts with the intention to aid in healing, but a murderer cuts with the intention of harm. Both are cutting other bodies, but they get different results.
Anyone who has been to my classes knows that I always guide students to clarify their intention for their practice, as part of the centering meditation once the mind has calmed down a bit. Being clear on our intention is important because, as in the examples above, our result WILL affect the outcome we get; the results we get are bound to the intention with which we act, though of course, our intentions are not always met.
What really does having an intention mean? Sometimes I’ll give more guidance about it, saying something like, “Given where you are at now in your life and in your body and mind, what do you need from or need to let go in your practice? What do you want to put into your practice? How do you want to BE during or after this time? or just what do your want to PRACTICE?” These suggestions can give a framework for clarifying one’s intention, but the bottom line is be clear WHY are you doing what you are doing and toward what are you aiming your actions.
Being clear on one’s intention in yoga class is good, but I think it’s even more important to be clear on one’s LIFE intention, i.e. WHY are you living your life or toward what goal are you aiming your life? Plenty of people appear to be living life without intention, but if we look deeper, everyone is ALWAYS acting with intention just that it’s not always a consciously chosen intention. Yoga being about Consciousness, we can easily see that it’s better to have a consciously chosen intention, even if we don’t always meet it, than to be driven by unconsciously chosen intentions.
During the first couple of weeks of exploring intention, I suggested and guided that people not change anything but simply notice, at any given moment what WAS their intention, when they were practicing on the mat or living life? This practice is probably best and most appropriate for more “advanced” practitioners but is certainly potentially useful for everyone, since with rigorous honesty, courage and self-respect and -compassion, just noticing what really is my intention at any time can be very revealing both of higher intentions and lower ones.
I would never say that there is a “right” intention for everyone, but intentions for practice that are more likely to lead to “higher” results could be very specific, eg. to remember to breathe, to focus on the sensations in the body, to keep coming back to the moment, to keep an injured or compromised part of the body safe. An intention could also be very broad and open-ended, eg. Love, Peace, to open, to explore the “Edge”, clarity, waking up. These are just examples and if you get clear, even a little bit, inside yourself, very often an intention that makes sense for you is right there on the surface, and all you need do is acknowledge it and claim it.